Sponsorship Under Tier 2 Minister of Religion
If you would like to hire an individual to undertake preaching or pastoral work at your religious organisation and the individual is from outside the EU, then you will first need to obtain a Sponsor Licence under the Tier 2 Minister of Religion category.
There are over 1,200 organisations in the UK which presently hold a Tier 2 Minister of Religion Sponsor Licence including churches, synagogues, mosques, and Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh temples.
However, as ever, there is a bewildering amount of rules and guidance which regulates them.
Below we explore some of the key areas you currently need to consider before applying for a Tier 2 Minister of Religion Sponsor Licence.
Who can be sponsored under the Tier 2 Minister of Religion category?
Sponsorship is primarily for religious workers who will either be preaching or performing pastoral work. However senior leadership or management roles within a religious organisation can also be sponsored under this category.
Certificates of Sponsorship
With a Licence in place you can apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from the Home Office (or you can request a CoS at the same time as you apply for your Licence).
Once allocated a CoS by the Home Office, you can then assign it to the migrant who can use this to apply for their Visa.
When you assign the CoS you will need to state the migrant’s start date and give further evidence of how you undertook a Resident Labour Market Test (see below). When you assign the CoS you will have to pay a fee.
The cost of each CoS is £199 and must be borne by the employer.
The Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT)
A RLMT is usually the first step on the road to hiring your migrant and is the mechanism by which you will show the job can’t be filled by a ‘settled worker’.
However, if the role you intend to fill is supernumerary (that is to say the role is over and above normal requirements and couldn’t be filled by anyone else), or if the migrant will mainly live within a religious order, then you are exempt from having to run the RLMT.
In all other cases you will need to run the Test, however you should be aware that there are specific requirements around running the RLMT relating to the Minister of Religion category.
The role must be advertised for at least 28 days in national media appropriate to your religion/denomination or your own website (if this is how you usually reach out to your community on a national scale and is where you normally advertise vacant positions).
There are specific documents you must keep to evidence you undertook a compliant RLMT which will depend on the medium used.
For example, if you advertised in a newspaper then you will need to keep a copy of the advertisement as it appeared in the newspaper. If you advertised online then you will need to take ‘screen shots’ of the website hosting the advert.
Applying for the Licence and Certificate of Sponsorship
You will normally apply for a Licence after completing a RLMT and identifying the migrant you wish to sponsor. The Licence itself is valid for four years and can be renewed.
Appendix A sets out the specific documents and information which must be provided when applying for a Minister of Religion Licence however, beware that, although not stated in such terms the information requested in Appendix A is effectively mandatory and failure to provide this will lead to the Application being rejected.
The cost of the Sponsor Licence is £536, assuming your organisation is a charity or classed as small, and must again be borne by the employer.
The Minister of Religion Visa
A visa is valid for up to three years but the migrant can extend the visa for another three years. After six years there is a ‘cooling off period’.
However, after accruing five years in the Minister of Religion category the migrant may be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
The Minister of Religion Visa fee is £610 and the Immigration Health Surcharge (which must be paid by the employer) is £1,200 for a three year visa.
Key Stages and Timings
You will have to navigate a number of key stages during the sponsorship process and each of the stages has time sensitive considerations which you need to bear in mind:
STAGE 1: The Resident Labour Market Test
- The job must be advertised in an appropriate medium for at least 28 days
- You must assign the CoS within six months of the date you first advertised the position
STAGE 2: The Sponsor Licence Application and Certificate of Sponsorship Request
- The Home Office decides eight out of ten applications within eight weeks. However, at the time of writing most application are taking around four weeks
- Whilst it is open to you to apply for the Licence, and then request a COS, the Home Office is less likely to issue a Licence unless they can see a clear need for one (they will generally want to see evidence of the RLMT). Therefore most organisations should submit their Licence Application whilst simultaneously requesting one or more CoS, and include evidence of the RLMT
STAGE 3: Assigning the Certificate of Sponsorship
- As noted you must assign the CoS to the migrant within six months of first running the RLMT
- The migrant then has three months from the date of assignment to submit his or her Visa Application
STAGE 4: Visa Application
- As well as the migrant having to submit the Application within three months of the CoS assignment, you must also factor in that the migrant can only submit the Application up to three months in advance of their start date (as stated when the CoS was assigned)
- Tier 2 Minister of Religion Applications will take around three weeks to be processed, although decisions can be expedited at some considerable cost
As you will see from the above, serious consideration should be given at the outset to how various time limits will interplay.
It is all too easy to fall foul of one of these time limits at any point in the process, when a lot of hard work has already been done, which would often mean starting the whole process again from scratch.